Where do I start? Where should I look? Why am I not hearing back?
As you’ve started your placement search, these are probably questions you’ve asked yourself over the past few weeks; I most definitely asked the same. It took me a few months to secure a placement. Throughout my search, I interviewed with companies like Intel and Disney and eventually secured a placement with one of the biggest technology companies in the world, Oracle. During my search, I collated many helpful tips that made my success rates a lot higher in getting through to interviews and assessment centres. I wanted to share a few of those with you in this article.
When I started my placement search, I first took time to sit and think: what do I want to do? It was a hard question to answer, but doing some light research helped me understand the options available to me within my specific industry. If you’re in a similar situation where you’re unsure, research and see which areas of your industry interest you the most. This will help you have a more targeted approach and help filter out all the noise, i.e., all the placements that are irrelevant to your interests. Once you have a good idea about what industry areas you want to target, you can use the following resources for your search:
- Aston Futures
Other job websites, such as Indeed, list placement opportunities, but the websites above were the most student-friendly to me and explicitly catered to placement students. This was useful as I knew the placements they listed were of high quality and relevance.
After finding a few placements that pique your interest, the next step is the application. Some placements have psychometric testing as screening, while others just want a supporting document meaning a cover letter that covers your motivations for applying to the role.
For psychometric testing, the key to getting better at them is practising. Practising the different aptitude tests beforehand helps you become familiar with the format, eliminating the element of surprise that usually adds more pressure when completing them. If you can find the assessment provider that your company is using for your assessments, this is also useful because you can practice that specific assessment style. For example, EY uses Saville as their test provider, so you should focus on Saville tests.
Many companies may just ask for a cover letter or have some application questions they want you to answer. Getting these right is also key to getting shortlisted. Your cover letter should highlight your skills, how you obtained them, and the most important part, how to use those skills in the job you are applying for. I spoke to a recruiter who gave me advice that has always stuck with me: make it easy for the recruiter to imagine you in the role. How do you do that? Read the job description thoroughly and link your skills and experience to the job requirements.
I spoke to a recruiter who gave me advice that has always stuck with me: make it easy for the recruiter to imagine you in the role. How do you do that? Read the job description thoroughly and link your skills and experience to the job requirements.
For example, suppose the job description states they are looking for a highly organised individual with good time management skills. In that case, you may talk about how you have developed strong organisation skills through balancing your university modules and ensuring you meet your assignment deadlines. To link it back to the job, your organisation skills can help you in the placement role when you manage deadlines for projects and deliverables. The job description should be your main reference point when you want to highlight your relevant skills for the job.
My last piece of advice is to do your research. Companies like to see that you’re interested in their company and their role and that this isn’t just one of the twenty other applications you’ve submitted. Look at the company values and assess if they align with yours; research what projects they’re working on to see if any are particularly interesting to you. This will demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the company, which is what companies are after. It can also help you because through research, you can assess if the company is a right fit for you, which is important.
Finding a placement can be stressful, but I hope some of the tips listed above can help make that process easier and your success rates higher.
By Majidah Begum, BSc Business and Management